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Posts Tagged ‘Ideas’

While my husband and I were having breakfast together at a local restaurant a few days ago, I noticed that he was almost finished whereas I had barely eaten any of my meal. I asked him why he eats so fast, and he replied that he doesn’t—he just gets done first because I never stop talking long enough to eat.

When it comes to writing, I think there are many of us who spend more time talking about it than working towards our goals. We have reasons, many of them good ones, why we have to do other things before we can complete our novel, memoir, or other projects, but that doesn’t change the fact that we aren’t achieving the success we hope for.

One factor holding us back may be a lack of time management skills. I know it’s an area I struggle with, so I did some research. Here are some of the ideas I’m hoping will help me manage time more effectively:

  • Set realistic long-term and short-term goals.

Knowing what we want to accomplish is the first step toward getting it. If we separate each big goal into smaller ones, it will keep us from feeling overwhelmed and we are more likely to succeed.

  • Set priorities, and stick to them until they change.

Every day, figure out what’s most important and work those into our schedule, allowing more time than we think we need because everything takes longer than we think. Life has a way of throwing obstacles in whatever path we choose, so we need to be flexible.

  • Develop a routine that fits our lifestyles.

We all have different responsibilities, talents, and personalities, so we mustn’t get hung up on what people say we should be doing. If our priorities don’t allow for a regular routine, so be it. We should do the best we can, when we can, and not get discouraged by comparing ourselves to others. Giving up is the surest way to fail.

That last point was one I made up myself. Apparently I lost the focus of my post somewhere along the way and started thinking philosophically instead of practically. If you want more specific tips, here are a couple of sites that I thought were especially well-written and helpful.

Top 10 Time Management Tips

13 Tips for More Effective Time Management

 In closing, here’s a bit of advice that I’ve always followed: Try not to stress over what doesn’t get done today, because it will probably still be waiting for you tomorrow.

 

Do you struggle with managing your time? What are some ways you fit writing into your schedule? What’s the most useful tip you know of for those of us needing to improve our time management skills?

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One type of writing that I enjoy is journaling. While it’s similar to a diary of events or thoughts, a journal typically includes introspection on what is written.

There are many reasons to keep a journal. Here are some that I think are helpful for writers:

  • Prods our creativity
  • Helps develop writing skills
  • Captures experiences we can use in stories
  • Keeps us in the habit of writing regularly

There are many benefits for non-writers, too, and for me these are even better reasons to keep a journal:

  • Allows us to see how our attitudes and thoughts have changed over time
  • Becomes a record of our lives that others may one day appreciate reading
  • Helps us sort out our feelings
  • Relieves stress by clearing out the clutter in our minds

 

A journal doesn’t have to follow rules. It can be as detailed or vague as we want it. Whether we are writing whatever comes to mind, or following a structured theme, it can help us discover more about ourselves as well as document our thoughts and experiences.

Whether your journaling is autobiographical, free-writing, focused on a particular topic, or a mixture of those things, it can be a useful and fun hobby. There are many sites that provide creative suggestions for journal topics, as well as ideas for creating personal journals.

Here are 2 sites with articles about journaling that I found helpful:

Your Life is Your Story  On starting a journal; has many helpful links.

Infed: Writing and Keeping Journals  Discusses learning from the journals we keep.

 

I haven’t kept a regular journal for a year or two, but started a new one this week as part of a study course I’m taking. Although I usually keep my entries in Word documents, I’m also going to print off the ones for this journal and keep them in a 3-ring binder. I only have a few entries so far, and the binder isn’t fancy—but I like it. It feels right for what I want to accomplish, and easy.

My journal on Revelation

Do you keep a journal? What topics do you write about? Do you use bound journals, notebooks, binders, or computer files for your journal entries? Do you have any tips, or know of helpful sites for more information on keeping a journal?

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If you’re planning to give a pitch to an agent or editor at a conference, you may want to take a one sheet, or pitch sheet, with you. Some resources use these terms interchangeably, but some say a one sheet covers all of your work while a pitch sheet is designed to help you present just one book or series. Regardless of the term, a one page summary comes in handy when you get a chance to present your work.

In addition to your full contact information, this page should include a professional-quality photo of yourself, and an author bio. Also write a short blurb about the book or series you’re pitching. Make it enticing, like the short summaries you see on the back cover of books in a store.

These sheets should showcase you and your work. Although you should use white paper and black text, it’s acceptable to use photos and some simple graphic design elements, including colored ink, but don’t let those features overpower the story. A template for a flyer or newsletter may help you get the look you want.

If you’re more comfortable with a simple document, go with that rather than trying to create something fancy. Their purpose is to give you one more tool to use in your effort to entice an agent or editor to ask to see more of your work, and an amateurish one sheet will probably not do that.

Author Kaye Dacus goes into more detail than I have, and also give examples:

http://kayedacus.com/2007/08/28/beyond-the-first-draft%E2%80%94the-pitch-sheet-and-one-sheet/

Another helpful reference is by Tracy Ruckman:

http://www.tracyruckman.com/downloads/One%20Sheets.pdf

Amy Wallace has an example that includes different books:

http://www.amywallace.com/pdfs/One_Sheet_Sample.pdf

Although I’ve seen one sheets recommended on several agents’ blogs, they seem to be optional. 

EDIT AUGUST 9, 2011: Agent Rachelle Gardner discusses one sheets on her blog today, and has links to several excellent examples her clients submitted. 

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Have you ever prepared a one sheet/pitch sheet? What’s the first thing you’d say to an agent if you were going to pitch something to them? What would you talk about with a conference faculty member who wasn’t an agent or editor if you were given the opportunity of a one-on-one meeting?

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I’ll be attending my first writing conference in a couple of weeks, and have scoured the internet looking for tips on what to expect. Some suggestions I’ve read are simply common sense: be professional; be prepared to take advantage of opportunities to pitch your work; be friendly; turn off your cell phone.

I came across a few ideas, though, that aren’t so obvious. Maybe you’ll find them helpful, too.

1. Go with a particular goal in mind, but keep your expectations low.

You’ll probably not get a contract out of it, but you may get some feedback on your writing. Even if you don’t, this is an opportunity to network and to learn from people who know what they’re doing.

2. Bring business cards.

Apparently people exchange cards with their contact information as a way to network. Use the back of the ones you get from other people for notes that will remind you of who they are and why you took their card.

3. Research the speakers, agents and editors that will be there.

Your chances of finding someone to represent you or give you helpful feedback will increase if you know which ones represent the type of writing you do. You’ll also be better prepared to talk to them if you meet them at dinner or during a break.

4. Think up a few conversation starters so you’ll be more comfortable talking to strangers.

One I frequently use is: “Excuse me. I’m lost. Could you tell me where to find (insert appropriate place)?”  Or how about, “I’m having a wonderful time here. What about you?”

5. Bring something you’d like to have critiqued—but not your whole novel.

Some conferences provide opportunities for people to read and discuss each other’s work. Also, agents and/or editors may ask to see something you’ve written, so be prepared for the possibility.

6. Practice talking about yourself and your writing.

You want to make a good first impression, so think of something interesting to say in response to questions such as, “What type of writing do you do?” “Tell me a little about yourself.” “Are you enjoying the conference?” “Haven’t I met you before?”

7. Smile.  :)

 

 

Do you agree with the tips I’ve mentioned? What’s the most important advice you’d give someone attending her first conference? What should I not do while I’m there? Have you ever attended the Indianapolis Christian Writer’s Conference? Are you going to be there this year?

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While waiting in line at the gas station to pay for my coffee, I got a terrific idea for a new character. My inspiration was a towering hulk of a man wearing a black t-shirt, jeans, motorcycle boots, and a silver bangle in one ear.

I never got a look at the guy’s whole face as I was standing behind him and could only see his profile. He must have been at least 6’6″ tall, so I had an excellent view of the inside of his nose whenever I looked up. That meant I spent most of my time staring at his belt, which held a chain with a fascinating wad of keys and plastic rewards cards. I suspect he doesn’t care about fashion or cleanliness, and yet he was attractive in a macho kind of way.

This potential character was buying lottery tickets, and the machine was so slow that we were there at least 5 minutes waiting for his transaction to process. He chatted with the cashier, and I took mental notes of everything he said. I was sorry when he left as I still needed to know a few things. Someday you’ll read about him, or someone very similar, in one of my stories.

In case you haven’t met any characters today, here are a few sites that might give you ideas for developing your own:

http://hollylisle.com/index.php/How-To-s/how-to-create-a-character.html Holly Lisle reveals how she creates characters.

http://kayedacus.com/2009/02/17/creating-credible-characters-refresher/ Kaye Dacus has a series of posts on characterization.

http://www.suite101.com/content/three-step-method-of-character-development-a160199 Suzanne Pitner gives tips on developing believable characters.

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Where do you get inspiration for characters? How much background information do you need before a story idea develops around a character? Or, do you come up with the story first, then the characters? What is it that generally makes you notice a stranger and sparks your imagination or interest?

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While there are times when I have so many ideas for stories that I think I’ll never live long enough to write them all, there are also times when I struggle to come up with a workable plot or scene. If you have that problem, too, try some of these tips to help you through those trouble spots:

1. Flip through a sales flyer or catalog for interesting pictures; use them as part of the description in a scene you are working on or as a visual image of a character in the story.

A picture of a person modeling clothes often captures my imagination for a secondary character. Sometimes the same person appears in several outfits, so I use them to help me give the character a more realistic description. Pictures of a room or house give me ideas for the places my characters live, and make it easier to give a vivid description of the setting. Keep the pictures in a folder labeled with the name of the story so you’ll have something to jog your memory later.

2. Ask a friend or family member a question about what they would do in a certain situation, or how they would react to a particular event.

Although the person doesn’t know the whole story, their comments give me an idea of how others would view what’s happening in my story. I’m the one writing it, and I’m also the one who’s stuck; getting another perspective may take the scene in a more interesting or believable direction.

3. Sit in a mall, or some other public area, and jot down descriptions of a few people who look like interesting characters. That may lead to a new story idea, or give you a new person to put into a story you are currently working on.

For example, a mall security guard or restaurant worker, a family sitting together, or a woman alone at a corner table may spark your imagination. I’ve written complete short stories while sitting at a table in the food court waiting for my daughter to get done shopping. Other character profiles are sitting in a folder, waiting for me to write a story for them.

4. Create an idea folder. Use it to save brief descriptions of things you see or hear that might be useful later.

Whenever I think of a topic that captures my interest, or read a thought that makes me want to know more, I write it down. I keep them in an idea folder, labeled so I can easily find them. I have folders with thoughts on blogging, religion, weird science facts, and interesting things in the news. Some are just snippets of conversations I’ve overheard that would make great dialog for a story.

5. Browse the internet. Read some random articles about odd people or strange events for fresh ideas based on true life.

In addition to reading articles online, there are sites that will come up with random ideas for writers. One entertaining site that generates story ideas is the Random Logline Generator. I haven’t used any of the ideas yet, but love reading them. Here are two examples of possible storylines that site came up with:

A hungry scuba diver, a peculiar plaintiff, and a doctor kidnap a road runner.

The adopted son of a tight-rope walker tries to get into the Guinness Book of World Records in the back of a taxicab.

 

How do you come up with ideas for your stories?

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